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Contents: Volume 2 - The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

June 24, 2018


 

Nativity

St. John

the

Baptist

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

 

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Solemnity of St. John the Baptist

I was baptized on this day in which we celebrate the birth of St. John the Baptist many years ago as an infant. I really didn't have a clue as to the significance of Baptism until my husband and I had our adopted children baptized and started a tradition to celebrate their Baptism days and ours as well as our birthdays. We save half of our birthday cake, freeze it, and then enjoy it as we recall what our Baptism means in our lives as Christians.

Most parents echo in their hearts what we hear in today's Gospel. It says of John, whom everyone thought would be called Zechariah, "What, then, will this child be?" We all have dreams and hopes and plans for these youngsters and for ourselves!

If you are a parent, grandparent, teacher, someone in charge of something, or are in ministry of any kind, you have probably also said or at least thought to yourself words from our first reading. We read/hear: "Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the LORD, my recompense is with my God." Our journey and that of those in our care are almost always very different from those plans we had!

Somehow the hand of the Lord is always with us. The Lord's vision is usually different but always better than our perspective. We, too, scatter some good seeds by our plans, but it is the Lord who insures that His Plan, His Word is what prevails.

As we celebrate this day, let us recall our own Baptism and our universal call to be preachers. Let us recommit to being "a light to the nations" or at least to those around us as best we can. In the US, we have an opportunity to shed some much needed light into some very dark corners where young children suddenly find themselves. Politics aside, in addition to praying, what will you do to make your voice as an authentic voice of the Lord heard?

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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The Nativity of St John the Baptist June 24 2018

Isaiah 49:1-6; Responsorial Psalm 139; Acts of Apostles 13:22-26; Gospel Acclamation Luke 1:76; Luke 1:57-66 & 80

The celebration remembering the birth of John the Baptist takes the place of the twelfth Sunday of Ordered Time. That makes John the Baptist a very important person for the Church. If we think about it, we may ask why should the Church make such a big deal about the birth of this man, the cousin of Jesus. After all he was only on the public stage for a short time. And then he lost his head because he pointed out the sins of a despotic, cruel, murdering, and glutton-for-power ruler. What good did this do for anyone or for God? There have been and will always be rulers who work only for an increase in their power, their wealth, and their influence. Just what is the significance of John the Baptist? Why should we celebrate John’s birth when his life, by worldly standards, is just an empty failure? What is there to see in this man’s life that calls to us to change?

If anything, this celebration reminds us to focus on what’s really important about human life.

John was born to Zachary and Elizabeth well past their normal childbearing years. It’s evident these two ordinary people wanted a family. Both Zachary and Elizabeth were members of the priestly tribe. Elizabeth could not serve as priest in the temple since she is a woman. But Zachary did take his turn in the temple, offering incense in worship of the God of Israel. When an angel visited Zachary while he on duty in the temple, Zachary couldn’t believe his ears. His lack of faithful acceptance of the message brought him speechlessness. Until he wrote on a slate "His name is John" he could speak nothing of his experience.

Their joy at having a son to carry on their name and family customs and experiences was great. Elizabeth was visited by her cousin, Mary, a young woman scheduled to marry Joseph a carpenter in Nazareth. Elizabeth recognized that Mary was also pregnant and rejoiced at the prospect of new life. Mary, younger and stronger was a great support to Elizabeth in her difficult advanced age pregnancy. We can imagine the sharing that went on between the two women. As the babies in their wombs stirred, giving them evidence of new life within them, they shared the experiences with each other.

Their world was in terrible chaos. The occupying Romans were cruel and demanding. They ruled with an iron fist, executing any who dared speak against them. In Galilee, Herod was in charge. His cruelty was so great that even the Romans were disgusted with him. Murder, adultery, repression of the poor, and disregard for human life were the hallmarks of Herod’s rule. In territories under either the Romans or Herod, anyone who failed to pander to those in power was in constant danger for words spoken, for actions taken. Only those who were Roman Citizens had any rights or protection from the law. Anyone not Roman could be crucified for infractions. Public executions of the most horrific and painful sort were thought to be a deterrent rebellion. Those in power believed they could stifle protest and activities that ran contrary to the thinking and plans of the emperor by cruelty. They believed that intense pain would bring compliance to the will of the emperor. They believed they could extract truth from enemies of the state by torture. Despite those efforts, rebellion among the Jews – and other occupied nations -- was commonplace. Public executions were regular events.

Surely the religious leaders of Israel would continue to teach and speak and practice their faith. Surely the hundreds of years of God’s intervention of compassion and mercy in the events of the Chosen People were clear signs of God’s Loving Kindness. But repeatedly both the religious leadership and the civil leadership accepted the wisdom of the world. They denied God’s continual presence with the nation by "going along to get along." Into this environment is born John who becomes the Baptizer. We believe he became an Essene at an early age, joining a community of Essenes possibly at the community in Qumran. Essenes were persons who lived in community and studied and practiced their faith in daily life. The community at Qumran seems to have committed itself to preserving the writings of Israel in scriptoriums that copied the ancient manuscripts of Israelite faith and experience. These persons sought purification from their failures by washing in the many pools at Qumran. They repented of their failings and, by washing, sought to release themselves of what kept them from a loving relationship with God.

John became the one "preparing the way of the Lord." He preached repentance. When persons came, heard, and committed to a new way of living, they were baptized signifying their change of heart, purifying themselves of old ways of living. The repentance John preached was preparation for mission and ministry of Jesus. Jesus’ message was a turning away from the ways of the world to the ways of God. We don’t know the words he used: we don’t have a detailed record of John the Baptizer. What we have is the effect of his preaching. His preaching was successful and brought out religious leaders from Jerusalem to see him, to listen to him, and to question him. For many he was just another mad-man preying on the anxieties of the poor. To others he seemed to be fulfillment of the prophecies of Malachi regarding the promised Messiah. John refused the notoriety and the power notoriety would have given him. "Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet."

It is apparent that John didn’t know exactly how the Messiah would come and what change he would initiate. The world in which John preached was a world drunk on the power of the Romans. Their power was the power of legions, armed with javelins and swords and iron bound chariots. Their tactics and strategies and intelligence gathering provided great advantage to their combat operations. Many citizens of Rome found the violent governance and military mandated peace a productive environment in which to live, work, and profit.

On this great feast day, we should ask ourselves how different are we from the ancient world? Are we still not drunk on the power of military might, on the power of wealth that lifts up those already wealthy to the detriment of those without? Are not truth and integrity victims of narcissistic autocrats whose presence in our world has increased on nearly every continent? Who among us can deny that our minds and hearts contain doubts that the law of love takes second place to the law of might, wealth, and prestige? Does this not signal the need for a John the Baptize to call us to repentance?

Where is John the Baptist when we need him to remind us of God’s loving kindness, his mercy, and his compassion for even the least among us? What has happened to understanding creation as expressions of the image and likeness of God? Why is it that our hearts deny dignity and worth to the poor, the victims of violence, the disadvantaged, the alien seeking refuge, and the earth itself? Are we not in need of John the Baptizer to repent? Is the God we worship on Sundays only a dream that cannot find a place in our work-week? Has God abandoned us and our world? It has been reported there are more displaced persons and refugees in our world now than there are persons in the continent of Australia. Are we more concerned about protecting our place in the world than we are about the causes of this terrible disruption of nations that causes people to flee for their safety, their lives, and their meaning and purpose? Do we not foresee our own terror in the terror of the disenfranchised?

It is said in our gospel that fear came upon all Zachary and Elizabeth’s neighbors when John was named. His birth and the healing of Zachary’s loss of speech were spoken of throughout the hill country. These ordinary people believed that God’s hand is with this child. John grew and became strong in spirit and he went into the desert until he began preaching repentance. His time in the desert is a parallel to the Hebrew nation’s forty years trek in the desert. When that nation came out of the desert they entered into the promised-land. So long as that nation lived according to their covenant with Yahweh they grew and were a light to the nations. When they fell back into the ways of the world, they failed and were overrun by their enemies. The lesson is clear to anyone who has ears to hear and eyes to see. Prophets arose and called the nation back to the covenant of Sinai. The history of the Chosen People is one calling, repentance, living in covenant, failure, and recall to the covenant. John the Baptist is prepares us for the coming of the Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah.

In every generation God raises up persons to guide us in overcoming our failures so we can repent and grow the Kingdom of God. The rule, the law, the constitution of God’s reign is love of God and love of Neighbor. On this feast day of John, let us give thought to how we practice our place in the covenant of the Christ. Do we in truth and action love one another as he loved us? May it be so!

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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‘WHAT’S IN A NAME?’ THE BIRTHDAY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST

In every family, the birth of a new baby is usually a source of joy and excitement. There's excitement even before it happens. This is particularly the case when a couple is expecting their first baby. In any case, the news of the arrival of a new baby is eagerly passed on from one family member to another. 'Is it a boy or a girl?’ they want to know. 'Who is the baby like?' 'Has the baby got its father's red hair? 'Are Mum and Bub both well?' 'What's the baby's name?', and even when the name is known: 'Why on earth did they call the baby that?'

That last question is the very same one that bothered the relations and friends of Elizabeth and Zechariah, when they heard that the couple's first and only child was being named ‘John’. They asked: 'Why on earth didn't they respect Jewish custom and tradition and call him "Zechariah" after his father? Where did they get that "John" from? What got into them?'

What got into them? Nothing less than God's decision to be the one to give this baby his name! And why would God do that? Simply because, while every baby is special, this baby is extra-special! His destiny is to introduce to the world the person of Jesus Christ. His destiny is to go out into the desert to be a voice crying in the wilderness. His destiny is to shout the good news there that the king and saviour of the world is on his way. His destiny is to call on people to straighten out the bumps in their lives and prepare a straight and smooth highway for the coming of their king. 'Repent', he will say over and over again. 'Get ready for the coming of the Messiah. Give up your selfishness, your greed, your self-indulgence, your dishonesty, your disloyalty, your anger, your nastiness, your hostility. Clean up your act, get washed clean in the Jordan River, and make a brand-new start.' And so, even in his mother's womb, John is said to have leapt with joy at the prospect of being so closely associated with the person of Jesus.

What will also be extra special about this forerunner of the messiah to come is his humility. He's on no ego-trip. He will say in relation to Jesus: 'I am not fit to undo his sandals.’ 'I must decrease; he must increase.' His intention will always be to point away from himself to the Messiah. So single-minded will he be about this, that just as soon as he can he will go out into the desert to live, and to live ever so simply by wearing animal skins for clothes and eating grasshoppers and wild honey for food.

What a man! How aptly the words of God in our First Reading today apply to him: 'I will make you the light of the nations so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth!' Indeed, as the gospel says, 'the hand of the Lord was with him’.

'What's in a name?' asks Australian poet, C.J. Dennis, in one of his famous pieces. My given names are 'Brian Peter'. Brian means 'strong' and 'brave', after the Irish king who won the Battle of Clontarf in 1054. 'Peter' means 'rock'. What a lot I have to live up to! When Elizabeth and Zechariah were told by God to name their son 'John', it was a name that had never occurred to them. But when they understood that it means literally 'God has shown favour to us', they were more than happy to do so. So, if your name is John, or Jack, or Jock, or Sean, or Giovanni, you can be proud to carry that name.

When the relations of Elizabeth and Zechariah heard how the child came to be called 'John', they understood that he was destined for great things. They wondered: 'What will this child turn out to be? Every parent wonders about this at the birth of their child. Our parents too, yours and mine, have had great expectations of us. God too has had great expectations of us. How have we lived up to their hopes and expectations? How have we turned out so far?

To the extent that we have lived up to what they have expected of us, let us give sincere thanks to God in our prayer today and mean it! And if we have been something of a disappointment, a let-down, let us in prayer seek God's favour and support to make a fresh start, a brand-new start.

Our time on earth is running out. Perhaps in the time left to us we will after all, with the help of God, start living up to all of our parents' hopes and dreams for us.

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Year B: 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time

"Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?"

About twenty years ago, I learned the meaning of the word ‘fear’. It was my first flight in a small plane in Guyana in South America.

When I first went on the missions I had fond imaginings of trekking up through the jungle like the last of the Mohicans, so I felt a bit disappointed that it turned out just to be a flight in a small plane. But, if I had wanted a test of courage, I don’t think I could have chosen better. It turned out to be an ‘Islander’ – a twin engined propeller-driven job which really should have retired at the same time as Biggles. From the inside, it bore a disturbing resemblance to the Mini Minor on which I learned to drive. Suddenly I discovered that a few hundred adolescent butterflies were holding a ‘rave’ inside my stomach. And the moment when the pilot turned round and cheerily explained that our take-off might be "a bit twisty" as he would have to steer around the potholes on the runway seemed to coincide with the time when the butterflies started handing round the Ecstasy.

Nevertheless, we somehow wobbled up into the air and flew hesitantly off in the general direction of the Venezuelan border. >From 6,000 feet, the view was magnificent: all around us thirty thousand square miles of the world’s greatest unspoiled rain-forest stretched away in all directions. We flew over the vast expanse of the mighty Demerara and Essequibo rivers. And I’m sure I would have thoroughly enjoyed it all, had the view not been slightly obscured by the flapping of the upper part of the engine cover, from which a couple of screws had fallen off. I was also a little distracted when the pilot, having got us to level flight, lay back in his seat, took his hands from the controls, lifted his feet off the pedals and busied himself with a crossword. For all I know they do exactly the same on a British Airways 747, but at least there you can’t see the joystick waggling about of its own volition.

Suddenly - and for the rest of the flight - I was terrified at the thought of the plane being out of control and spiralling down to an interesting but brief explosion in the rain forest. Of course, that never happened - the plane carried on serenely in level flight until we got to our destination. And I am sure that there was never any real danger at all. But, even knowing that in my head and trying to tell it to myself, didn’t actually make it feel any better.

And even after three years of flying regularly a couple of times a week in our small plane, I still couldn’t entirely get rid of it. I still felt just a little bit nervous getting into the plane. The pilots thought it was hilarious and (I am convinced) did extra aerobatics just to wind me up. But I still kept hearing the words of the old Amerindian man who preferred to go down to the coast by trail, rather than by plane:

As he said: "If the truck breaks down, then where you is, is where you is.

If the plane breaks down, then where you is, is where you ain’t!"

But in the Gospel, the fears of the disciples are not the fears of people who haven’t done this before. These are experienced fishermen who know exactly what a storm is and who know that this is a bad one. The fears that can beat us do not come from a lack of knowledge or a lack of experience. They come from a lack of faith. It is by Faith that we can trust – whether or not our feared disaster happens – the boat sinks; the plane falls out of the sky; or whatever is our personal dread that wakes us up in a cold sweat at 2 in the morning. Whatever it is, the answer is not: "oh don’t worry about it, it’s not going to happen." It just very well might.

Faith is the ability to know – not just in the head, but in the heart – that even if the very worst does happen, Jesus is still with me in the boat and He loves me and He saves me.

One of the pilots once gave me a card which said: "Jesus – ain’t nothing going to happen today that you and me can’t handle together." - Which might sound a bit twee, but when he gave it to me, he also said: "Every pilot knows that he can get it wrong and fly into a mountain. Well, if I do that, at least I can know I was doing something worthwhile at the time."

Let us pray that, whatever fears, risks and dangers we encounter in living out our own missions in Life, we may know and trust that God goes with us into all of them. And that, if it does all go horribly wrong, that at least we were doing something worthwhile at the time.

Let us stand and profess our Faith in Christ who calms all the fears and storms in our lives.

 

Paul O'Reilly <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net. Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John
 


 

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